The 2005 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 2004-05 National Basketball Association season. The San Antonio Spurs of the Western Conference took on the Detroit Pistons of the Eastern Conference for the title, with the Spurs holding home court advantage. The series was played under a best-of-seven format.
The Spurs won the series 4 games to 3 in the first NBA Finals to go to a Game 7 since 1994. The games were broadcast on ABC, with Al Michaels and Hubie Brown commentating.
Both teams competing were considered to be defensively-oriented. The San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons ranked first and second, respectively, in the fewest points allowed during the regular season. Although the Spurs are also considered to be capable of high-scoring games, the Pistons recorded few high-scoring games during the regular season.
This series was the first Finals to feature the previous two champions since the 1987 Finals. In that series, the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rivalry was in full swing, and the Celtics and Lakers were able to come to a rubber match after each having won one Finals series from the other in 1984 and 1985.
Going into the 2005 Finals, the Spurs had won two championships (1999 and 2003), while Detroit had three (1989, 1990, and 2004). The 2004 Championship was often ascribed to a fluke by sportswriters, because the Lakers were at the time considered one of the league's most offensive-minded and élite teams, but were crumbling as a result of internal quabbles and selfish play. Others have countered that Detroit's defense outplayed the Lakers' offense, thereby vindicating the Detroit franchise. Further, the Detroit team-oriented offense often dominated a Lakers team ridden with selfish play and the well-publicized tension between superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
The Spurs finished five games ahead of the Pistons during the regular season. Historically, NBA teams in this position have posted a 19-8 record. Both teams, though, were ranked number two in their respective conferences, with the Phoenix Suns ranked number one in the West and the Miami Heat ranked number one in the East.
Sportswriters all across the country generally considered this one of the few too-close-to-call series to occur. Most picked the series to go to six or seven games.
The Spurs breezed through the playoffs with relative ease, compared to the Pistons. They defeated the Nuggets 4-1 to open the playoffs. In that series, after trailing 1-0 after a home upset, they won four straight. The SuperSonics were then dispatched in six games. Phoenix was expected by many to put up a challenge, and many NBA legends of the past predicted them to take the Western Conference title. Contrary to this, the Spurs went up 3-0, and after the Suns staved off elimination one game, even with all the fans in Phoenix in Game 5 wanting a repeat of the Boston Red Sox comeback, the Spurs rose to bring the inevitable to pass.
The Pistons had to overcome more adversity. The opening round was fairly easy, a five-game victory over Philadelphia. Next, the Pistons faced the Indiana Pacers, one of the NBA's most resilient teams. Indiana was expected by most experts to falter and miss the playoffs after the Palace melee; however, the team, led by soon-to-retire Reggie Miller, still made the playoffs, defeating the Atlantic Division champion Boston Celtics. The Pacers, despite all their obstacles, put up a tough challenge, but in Game 6, it became apparent that Miller's storied career was over. A standing ovation came from the Conseco Fieldhouse crowd. Detroit next had to defeat conference winner Miami and star player Shaquille O'Neal. After winning Game 1, they fell behind 2-1 after three games and 3-2 after five games, but still rebounded in Game 6 on their home court. In game seven, Detroit overcame the odds and beat the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena and thus advanced to the NBA Finals for the second straight year.
Series scoring summary
The following scoring summary is written in a line score format, except that the quarter numbers are replaced by game numbers.
Team Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5* Game 6 Game 7 Wins San Antonio (West) 84 97 79 71 96 86 81 4 Detroit (East) 69 76 96 102 95 95 74 3
- game required overtime.
All dates and times are given in local time. Note that the games were held three times a week (on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays) and were always at 9:00 Eastern Time (01:00 UTC).
Game 1 - June 9, Thursday @San Antonio 8:00 CDT San Antonio 84, Detroit 69: San Antonio leads series 1-0 Game 2 - June 12, Sunday @San Antonio 8:00 CDT San Antonio 97, Detroit 76: San Antonio leads series 2-0 Game 3 - June 14, Tuesday @Detroit 9:00 EDT Detroit 96, San Antonio 79: San Antonio leads series 2-1 Game 4 - June 16, Thursday @Detroit 9:00 EDT Detroit 102, San Antonio 71: Series tied 2-2 Game 5 - June 19, Sunday @Detroit 9:00 EDT San Antonio 96, Detroit 95 (OT): San Antonio leads series 3-2 Game 6 - June 21, Tuesday @San Antonio 8:00 CDT Detroit 95, San Antonio 86: Series tied 3-3 Game 7 - June 23, Thursday @San Antonio 8:00 CDT San Antonio 81, Detroit 74: San Antonio wins series 4-3 Before every game, pre-game ceremonies were held. These ceremonies (usually singing, performances, etc) take up some time, so the actual tip-off usually does not take place until approximately 20 minutes after the scheduled start time.
The Finals were played using a 2-3-2 site format, where the first two and last two games are held at the team with home court advantage's (San Antonio's) home court (SBC Center). This has been used in virtually all Major League Baseball best-of-seven playoff series since the founding of the league. The NBA, after experimenting it in the early years, only restored this original format for the Finals in 1985. As of yet, the other playoff series are still running on a 2-2-1-1-1 site format.
The NBA, as has been done with every other NBA Finals, heavily advertised the series. In addition, the league attempted to qualify this series as the best ever. The teams were already deemed quality, so all that remained was quality in the other aspects of the game. Many fans discussed the NBA Finals on the NBA forums, and the league also sent many reporters and other officers to return the favour.
The NBA decided to track the noise levels at the stadium. After two games, the highest noise level recorded was 114 decibels, when Tim Duncan was introduced in Game 2, six away from the alleged maximum marking on the meter. Various Pistons fans made claims, in response, that during the three-game stretch at the Palace they would be so loud that they would blow the needle off the meter, in other words, getting the noise level past the fatal 120 mark.
The NBA also reported numerous Pistons fans who went into the SBC Center in games one and two. Spurs fans, in return, promised to remain loyal to their team in the three middle games in Detroit. Such "battleline-crossing" fans often receive abuse everywhere they travel, especially if they can be identified by team uniforms or other gear. Magic Johnson once stated, at the height of the Lakers-Celtics Rivalry, that upon landing in Boston he was immediately surrounded by zealous fans that hated him. He also reports that Bird received similar attention in Los Angeles. However, he said, when the teams were landing at home, a different type of mob surrounded them: those that were in support of them. The noise levels were expectedly very loud.
Detroit Pistons roster Richard Hamilton | Chauncey Billups | Tayshaun Prince | Rasheed Wallace | Ben Wallace | Antonio McDyess | Carlos Arroyo | Carlos Delfino | Elden Campbell | Lindsey Hunter | Ronald Dupree | Smush Parker | Horace Jenkins | Anthony Goldwire | Darko Milicic | Derrick Coleman | Darvin Ham
San Antonio Spurs roster Tim Duncan | Tony Parker | Manu Ginobili | Bruce Bowen | Robert Horry | Glenn Robinson | Brent Barry | Radoslav Nesterovic | Nazr Mohammed | Devin Brown | Beno Udrih | Sean Marks | Tony Massenburg | Mike Wilks | Linton Johnson
Thursday, June 9, 2005, 20:00, at the SBC Center.
Manu Ginobili was widely considered the star of the night, scoring in a virtuoso performance near the end of the game to lead the Spurs to victory. The Pistons were then left 'in the dust', the NBA website reported. Ginobili scored 15 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to complement a huge game by Tim Duncan.
Ginobili, a famous Argentine All-Star, already with championship rings from the NBA and Euroleague and an Olympic gold medal (the only player in history with all three), got to work on his second NBA title by taking over in the final period. He scored eight points in a decisive 12-2 surge that gave the Spurs a 67-55 lead, then throttled a push by the Pistons with a swooping dunk, 3-pointer and running hook for an 81-67 advantage with less than two minutes to go.
Having been idle for a week, the Spurs looked weak. With their defense, however, they were able to overcome adversity. Tim Duncan, who had 24 points and 17 rebounds, also contributed. Although the Pistons tend to suddenly come alive in the fourth quarter, the converse was true this game as San Antonio put together a big quarter to take a commanding lead in the game.
Team 1 2 3 4 Tot. Detroit 20 17 14 18 69 San Antonio 17 18 20 29 84
Sunday, June 12, 2005, 20:00, at the SBC Center.
Coming into the game, it seemed as if the resilient Pistons, who survived two elimination games against Miami in the Eastern Finals, would come out strong and give the Spurs a challenge. However, it was the Spurs who came out with a sense of urgency, as they did not want the Pistons to steal a game in San Antonio and take home court advantage away from them. From the opening tip, Game 2 was all San Antonio as the Spurs got out to a quick lead and never looked back.
The Spurs took advantage of Detroit's uncharacteristic mistakes throughout the night, which included missing 9 shots from inside four feet from the basket. While the Pistons went cold from behind the arc, not scoring a single 3-point basket, the Spurs made 11 3-pointers, including 4 each by Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen, who did not score a point in game 1. Ginobili finished the game with a game-high 27 points, while Tim Duncan finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Antonio McDyess was the high scorer for Detroit, scoring 15 points off the bench.
The 2-0 lead proved a daunting challenge to Detroit, historically. In the history of the NBA, in the 153 times when a team with home court advantage was up 2-0 in a series, only seven times has the other team rebounded to win the series.
Team 1 2 3 4 Tot. Detroit 19 23 21 13 76 San Antonio 30 28 21 18 97
Tuesday, June 14, 2005, 21:00 EDT, at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Going into this game, the Pistons were looking to rebound from the deficit.
Only two teams in NBA Finals history have ever came back from a 2-0 deficit: the Celtics in the famed 1969 Finals and the Trail Blazers in a more obscure Finals in 1977.
Despite the tough challenge, the Pistons pulled through, and came out with several key steals and two scoring runs in the third quarter, then netted many insurance points in the fourth to win a big game which was a de facto must-win. Ben Wallace was lauded and commended by many for stepping up to the challenge.
When the end of the game came, and the 96-79 final score flashed upon the screens, many Pistons fans, celebrating in jubilation, started filling the air with confetti and conducted other celebratory customs. That was the first time that the Spurs have given up more than 90 points in a Finals game.
Team 1 2 3 4 Tot. San Antonio 27 15 23 14 79 Detroit 21 20 29 26 96
Thursday, June 16, 2005, 21:00, at The Palace.
In this game also, as was previously observed in Game 3, the Pistons dominated the Spurs. Reporters began to remark about the tendency in this series for the home team to produce a blowout. Thus far, no game had been decided by less than 15 points.
Seven Pistons scored in double figures, and big games were collected from Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, and all the other élite stars of the franchise.
The outcome was never really in doubt, and the Pistons committed a Finals-record low four turnovers, but even this is often deemed an underestimation of the Pistons' defensive power. The deciding factor appears to have been the lack of possession time for the Spurs. This led to infrequent opportunities to score, and combined with an uncharacteristic scoring slump, the Spurs were only able to manage 71 points. For the second straight game, the Pistons scored more than 90 points against the Spurs.
Team 1 2 3 4 Tot. San Antonio 17 19 21 14 71 Detroit 23 28 23 28 102
Sunday, June 19, 2005, 21:00, at The Palace.
Robert Horry's famous game 5 dunk.With the first four games of the 2005 Finals being blowouts by the home team, Game 5 was the close game everyone was waiting for, and it went down as one of the more memorable games in Finals history.
The game was closely contested by the two teams throughout the night as the lead changed 12 separate times, and the game was tied on 18 occasions. Regulation was not enough to settle this game, so the game went into overtime. The Pistons streaked out to a quick lead in the first few minutes of overtime, and seemed to have the game in hand. However, a missed opportunity with Detroit up 2 with 9 seconds to go opened the door for San Antonio. On the Spurs' next possession, Robert Horry inbounded the ball to Ginobili, who then gave it back to Horry, who was left wide open, to sink the game winning basket. Horry had previously already been famous for nailing the winning shot in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Kings.
Horry went 5 for 6 from beyond the arc, including the game-winner, and scored 21 points coming off the bench, after not scoring until the final play of the 3rd quarter. He carried the team in the latter stages of the game as his teammates struggled with nerves that came with the weight of a must-win game on the road against an accomplished adversary. In addition to the game winning three pointer Horry made a spectacular left handed dunk as the shot clock was winding in one possession, that is one of the highlights of the series. Incidentally, Horry happened to have the most NBA championships of any active player - five, and looked to extend that to six.
Tim Duncan, despite struggling from the free-throw line, finished with 26 points and 19 rebounds for the Spurs. Chauncey Billups was the high scorer for the Pistons, finishing with a game high 34 points in the losing effort.
Team 1 2 3 4 OT Tot. San Antonio 21 21 22 25 7 96 Detroit 23 19 21 26 6 95
Tuesday, June 21, 2005, 20:00, at the SBC Center.
Game 6 was a close game all along, and the lead kept fluctuating between the two teams. Again, the leading stars on both teams played big games. Detroit pulled away early in the fourth for an 80-73 lead with five minutes to go, but the Spurs continued to threaten them. Soon, it was back to a one-point game.
Then, Rasheed Wallace planted a three-pointer to pull away, and even with a resilient game by the Spurs, the Pistons had clinched the victory.
Nevertheless, several Pistons free throws were necessary in the final moments of the game to put a win out of reach for the Spurs.
Rasheed Wallace had a big game to atone for the mistake he made for leaving Horry open in Game 5. Despite the fact that his mistake ultimately cost the Pistons the championship, Wallace was nonchalant about the play, even commenting incorrectly that he left Horry to guard Duncan.
Billups and Prince again led the Pistons with steady, unwavering defense, which is the key, as it is often said, to victory. Although Duncan and Ginobili finished with 21 points each, neither was able to seriously threaten the strong Pistons defense enough to win the game. Detroit thus won its fifth consecutive game facing elimination. The Pistons became the first road team to force a Game 7 in the NBA Finals.
Team 1 2 3 4 Tot. Detroit 23 23 25 24 95 San Antonio 23 24 20 19 86
Thursday, June 23, 2005, 20:00, at the SBC Center.
For the first time in eleven years, the NBA Finals came down to a decisive game. Momentum was on Detroit's side, but the Spurs had home-court advantage. The Pistons were looking to become to first team to ever win the last 2 games on the road, after being down 3-2. The stats were, as expected, heavily in favor of the Spurs. NBA teams are 74-17 all-time at home in Game 7, and 9-0 when leading 3-2 going home.
The game, like the previous two games of the series, was closely contested for the first three quarters. But the Spurs took control in the fourth quarter and never looked back as for the second time in three years, the Spurs celebrated a championship on the SBC Center floor. The Spurs won Game Seven 81-74, winning the franchise's third Larry O'Brien Trophy. For the game, Tim Duncan finished with a game high 25 points and 11 rebounds, while teammate Manu Ginobili pitched in with 23 points. Richard Hamilton, with 15 points, was the high scorer for the Pistons, who fell just short of winning back to back championships.
Tim Duncan won his third NBA Finals MVP Award. Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Bruce Bowen each received their second championship ring, while Robert Horry became only the second player in NBA history (John Salley being the first) to play on championship teams for three different franchises.
Team 1 2 3 4 Tot. Detroit 16 23 18 17 74 San Antonio 18 20 19 24 81
Country music duo Brooks and Dunn sang the national anthem prior to the game.
The Pistons became the first road team down 3-2 in the series to win a Game 6 since the 2-3-2 format started in 1985. The previous 7 teams to lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 at home ('86 Boston Celtics, '87 Los Angeles Lakers, '92, '96 & '97 Chicago Bulls, '00 Lakers and '03 Spurs) won the series-clinching Game 6. The only two other series to go seven games with the 2-3-2 format (1988 and 1994) had the home team win both Games 6 & 7. In '88 the Lakers defeated the Pistons and in '94, the Houston Rockets beat the New York Knicks. With the Spurs winning Game 7, no road team has won a seventh game in the Finals since the 1978 Washington Bullets, who beat the Seattle SuperSonics in that series. The previous three Finals series to go a deciding seventh game were won by the home team. The Celtics beat the Lakers at Boston Garden in 1984, the Lakers beat the Pistons at the Great Western Forum in 1988 and the Rockets beat the Knicks at The Summit in 1994. The Spurs became the fifth franchise to win the NBA Championship at least three times joining the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls and Pistons in this group. Tim Duncan is the only player on all three Spurs championship teams (1999, 2003 and 2005). Tim Duncan became the fourth player in NBA history to win the NBA Finals MVP a third time joining Magic Johnson, Micheal Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal. Robert Horry joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as the only non-Celtics to win at least six championships.
The games were broadcast exclusively on ABC in the US. Al Michaels and former Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown called the action. The featured song, aired throughout the playoffs, was Rob Thomas' "This Is How A Heart Breaks."